Marvelous Marvin Hagler had been made to fight so hard, for so long, and he was determined to hold onto the world middleweight title for as long as he possibly could now that he’d finally won it. It was 40 years ago today when the shaven-headed southpaw bludgeoned a brave but totally outgunned Alan Minter in London.
Sadly, as fight fans know, Minter passed away a few days back, losing his battle with cancer at age 69. Hagler paid his respects upon hearing the news. These two men engaged in a short, savage, and one-sided battle all those years ago, yet the two fighters shared a mutual respect for one another.
Hagler, aged 26 (officially), had been held to a controversial draw by Vito Antuofermo in his first (and Hagler feared last) shot at the title. Hagler was a bitter man when the decision was announced at the conclusion of those 15 hard rounds. Then in came Minter to score a controversial points win over the cut-prone Vito. Then, no stranger to cuts himself, Minter retained the crown with a stoppage win over a bloody Antuofermo.
Then Minter made two mistakes: first, he signed to fight Hagler (although Minter deserves his plaudits for not having tried to duck or dodge Marv), then he came out with his infamous “no back guy will take my title,” vow (or words, perhaps stronger, to that effect). Hagler had vowed to “let my fists do the talking,” this time around.
One of the most ugly scenes in British boxing history unfolded that night at Wembley. Minter, a slight betting favorite over Hagler, fought aggressively, being given no other choice, yet he was no match for Hagler’s punching power and sheer physical strength. Diced and sliced in less than three rounds, Minter never went down, but he was truly busted up (even his robe was splattered with blood; a dazed, beaten Minter standing in his corner after the fight was over, his hood covering his battered face).
Then the thugs masquerading as boxing fans, many of them drunk, took it upon themselves to hurl bottles into the ring, the missiles aimed at the new champion. It was shocking; it was a disgrace. Hagler not only could have been hurt, but he was also robbed of the chance to celebrate his title win in mid-ring. Hagler said he would never return to England.
Marvelous set about defending his treasured belt. A “revenge” win over Antuofermo came in defense number-two, a hammering of another British fighter in Tony Sibson came in defense number-six, a closer than close 15 round decision win over the great Roberto Duran came in defense number-eight, while Hagler reached his zenith with defense number-11 – this fight being the much-celebrated war with Thomas Hearns. Finally, Hagler was universally proclaimed the best fighter on the planet.
It had been a long road – Hagler improving to 61-2-2 with the April 1985 victory – but Hagler was now the king of kings. We all know what came next for Hagler (or after one more retention, this one a tough night with John Mugabi), but for now, he was sugar-free. Hagler had no equal in the ring.